Fine Fettle Flapjacks

12 Jan 2014

honeycover

Fact: Flapjacks put you in fine fettle.

I can explain. During the time that we were building our own little nest on the farm, we took up residence in the nearby village of Adare, County Limerick. Adare, which in Irish is: Áth Dara, meaning “ford of [the] oak” is a precious little town with a population of about twenty four hundred and is regarded as one of Ireland’s prettiest villages. At the time, it had championed the “Tidy Town” award for five years running and it was easy to see why. To me, Adare village looked and felt like a scene out of medieval times; which, from my urban American point-of-view, proved to be a simultaneously charming and somewhat tricky territory to settle into at that moment in time.

If you strolled the village from top-to-tail in 2006, you would find two spectacular stone cloistered churches built in the 13th century, one petite corner grocery store whose clerk was the face of my stern second-grade teacher, a fish-n-chipper called the Pink Potato, a string of pubs seemingly all owned by one (Collins) family, two quiet fine dining restaurants, a Chinese takeaway that once charged me 5 euro for a side of soy sauce, a filling station with an unusually popular deli counter, a perfect little café. Turf smoke hung in the air over riverbank castle ruins, an itty-bitty post office that closed for two hours every afternoon, a friendly pharmacy with a glowing green cross on its facade, a row of thatched-roof cottages, a small library, the bank, a handful of B&B’s and two estate hotels once inhabited by Lords and Ladies.

hen

By now you are wondering what this post has to do with a stack of flapjacks. I mentioned a perfect little café. About two blocks from our little bolthole was Lloyd’s. Like most businesses in Adare, Lloyd’s Café was a family-run venture. Small, quaint; a tiny dining room with 4-5 small wooden tables inside and 2 tables outside for when the weather was cooperating.  The simple menu was chalked onto a board daily and consisted of just breakfast and lunch.  A hearty full Irish, buttery scrambled eggs with a pinch of curry powder (the BEST), velvety soups, stews, sandwiches, salads, cakes, scones, and, most importantly, the only good coffee in town. It was one of those buzzy little places filled with excellent food and chatty locals, and if you stayed long enough you could file the village’s full gossip report upon your departure.

flapjackoverhead

One day after ducking in for a quick lunch, I made my way up to the cash register to pay the bill.

“Would you like anything else?”

I pointed to the large glass cookie jar next to the till, “Em, sure, may I have two of these gorgeous looking granola bars please?”

“Two Flapjacks for takeaway?”

Puzzled, “Oh, no, no, the granola bars in the cookie jar.”

“Those yokes? They are flapjacks”

“Wait, what? Flapjacks are pancakes in America.”

With that lilting Irish irony, “Well, Flapjacks are Flapjacks in Ireland.”

“Really?”

She grinned, “Really. And sure, they’ll put you in fine fettle.

Eventually I figured out that flapjacks are not flapjacks, but yet they are flapjacks, and they are considered a healthy treat in this neck of the woods. I learned that “fine fettle” means to be in good health or good humor, and ended up taking home three flapjacks (combination embarrassment + pregnancy clause.) They were devoured before the end of the day.

I had eaten my weight in them before I figured out that they were basically bars of butter, golden syrup (like corn syrup), and rolled oats. Not exactly a recipe for health. So, now that we live on the farm and have our own honey, I DIY swapping out the golden syrup for honey and adding nuts, seeds, fruits, and various healthy grains to the mix. They are a versatile snack to nibble with tea, after feeding calves or a run, and super fantastic for the lunchbox. We are butter lovers, but you can swap coconut oil, sunflower oil or nut butter for the butter for a dairy-free version.

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However you proceed, I can promise that they sure will put you in fine fettle. Here is my favorite recipe which is packed with healthy grains and boasts the perfect balance of chew + crunch. Delicious!

Oat-Millet-Chia-Banana Flapjacks

Ingredients:

6 tbsp / 1/3 cup raw honey

200g / 3/4 cup unsalted butter

1 medium ripe/soft banana, mashed

1 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of sea salt

330g / 2 cups organic porridge oats

115g/1 cup organic millet flakes

55g/1/2 cup chia seeds

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas 4

2. Butter a 23cm x 33cm / 9″x 13″ Swiss roll tin and line the base with baking parchment.

3. Place the honey, butter, banana mash and cinnamon into a large saucepan and heat gently, stirring well until the butter has melted completely.

4. Put the oats, millet, chia seeds into a large mixing bowl, add a pinch of salt then pour over the butter and honey mixture and stir to coat the oats mixture.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and spread evenly to fill the tin making sure the surface is even. Sprinkle a small handful of millet flakes over the top.

6. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven while the flapjack is still slightly soft, they will harden once cool.

7. Place the tin on a wire cooling rack, cut the flapjack into squares and leave in the tin until completely cool.

8. Try not to eat them all in one day!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2014

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orange polenta cake

Gah! Isn’t that photo GORGEOUS? Don’t you just want to DIVE INTO that cake? Damn. Donal Skehan, your cake + photography looks SO good on this blog. Also, those beautiful orange twists? I’m desper for a zester (did I really just say that? Apologies)

With all the baking vested in me, I declare this cake a masterpiece to be-hold and be-eaten.

Right. Let me shed some light on what’s happening here. I’m still the full shilling, promise.

My dear friend, Donal Skehan, has just released his 4rd cookery book, Homecooked. And, to be prudent, I must add that not only has he put a book out this year, but he’s filmed two separate television food series, worked with Jamie Oliver on Food Tube, created and published a stunning new dinner journal/magazine that is Ireland’s answer to Kinfolk, went on a national “blog tour” where he brought his satire + cooking to the theatrical stage (absolute brilliant fun), and has also launched a new line of spectacular savoury pies with his family. I am sure I am missing more bits, but my point is that this man has the energy of a 26 year old.

Oh yeah, he is 26.

Sigh.

Home Cooked

Now his book itself is going on a (blog) tour too. Not kidding. Yesterday, it launched with Waterstones and Emily Holmes. Today it’s me. Tomorrow it will be Lily. When Donal’s publisher asked us to be roadies, we  jumped right into that virtual RV.

There isn’t ONE recipe in any of Donal’s books that I wouldn’t make, but my favourite recipe (so far) from Homecooked is this Orange Polenta Cake with Honey and Rosewater Syrup. It was hard to choose because one (little) farmer is partial to the Mikado Coconut Cream Cake (tied with the Waitress Mermaid Pie), and another (big) farmer is crazy about Buttermilk Fried Chicken. Plus, there’s the fact that there is a shot of me in my mother-in-law’s pinny holding the most amazing Crazy Monkey Brownie Baked Alaska on page 169. But, I digress.

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I love this sweet, dense cake because it is especially good prepared with our woodland honey, but would taste incredible with any honey that is accessible. What is fantastic about Donal’s cookbooks is that they have been tested til the cows com home, and anyone can make his recipes, including his biggest fan, our 8 year old son, Geoffrey. Okay, Geoffrey needs a leeeettle help, but you get the gist of it. Delicious. Easy. Accessible. Comforting recipes to cook at home.

This fragrant and moist cake is not only visually beautiful, it also has the most delicious spiced sweet orange and honey flavour. The cake can be made gluten-free as long as you use a gluten-free baking powder.

ORANGE POLENTA CAKE WITH HONEY & ROSEWATER SYRUP

SERVES 6-8 (V)

Butter, for greasing

8 green cardamom pods

225g ground almonds

100g polenta

1 heaped tsp baking powder

225g caster sugar

225g butter, softened

3 large eggs

Grated zest of 3 large oranges

1 tsp vanilla extract

50g pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

Creme fraiche, to serve

FOR  THE  SYRUP

Juice of 2 large oranges

3 tbsp honey

2 tsp rosewater

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4 and grease a 20cm diameter springform tin, then line the base with baking parchment.

2. Bash the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar and extract the seeds. Then bash the seeds to a fine powder and add to a bowl together with the ground almonds, polenta and baking powder.

3. Beat the sugar and butter in a bowl until the mixture is light and pale. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Tip the bowl of dry ingredients into this mixture and fold with a spatula until just combined. Add two-thirds of the orange zest together with the vanilla extract, and just fold through.

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and place it on the middle shelf of the oven to bake for about 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.

5. Prepare the syrup by placing all the ingredients in a small saucepan over a medium heat and bringing to a steady simmer.

6. Pierce holes all over the cake with a wooden skewer while it is cooling and pour over half the syrup, a little at a time, until the cake has soaked it up. Sprinkle with the pistachio nuts, drizzle with the remaining syrup and sprinkle with remaining orange zest to decorate.

7. Serve in slices with a little creme fraiche.

I hope you enjoy Homecooked by Donal Skehan as much as we do.

Back in few days with new farm adventure + recipe, promise!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Cake photo by Donal Skehan 2013. Book cover supplied by Harper-Collins. 

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Farmhouse Films

29 Nov 2013

smallgreenfieldposter

Looking back, around the time that I first landed in Ireland, I remember being absolutely fascinated by how many potatoes were eaten in this country.  Of course, my perspective was somewhat obscured having been on a self-inflicted-American-fad-diet-potato-strike for so many years. Here, spuds were revered and described at the dinner table with such compassion and gusto, it was both astonishing and honorable…and, for a starch-starved food lover, even a wee bit romantic. I recall boldly declaring that one day “I will make an extraordinary film about the potatoes of Ireland!” I even proudly gave it the title of “Práta!” That’s Irish for potato, you see.

Alas, nobody was very excited about my idea, so I shelved it in the hope that one day it would sprout to life.

Well, “Práta!” didn’t happen, but Small Green Fields did. Along with Farmhouse Films, our latest farm endeavour.

So, without further ado, (best viewed in hi-res by clicking on Vimeo link on bottom right hand corner)

Small Green Fields from Imen McDonnell on Vimeo.

I would like to thank everyone who worked on this special little film, both behind and in front the camera, who came together to create this evocative picture of Ireland’s food and farming landscape to share with the world. Last weekend, we were lucky enough to be chosen to screen at the 2013 Chicago Food Film Festival, where I am proud to say the film was very well received, and that we were able to arrange for guests to sample gorgeous Goatsbridge Trout Caviar and Sheridan’s Brown Bread Crackers on the evening.

My hope is that this short piece is just the beginning of more Farmhouse Films projects focusing on Ireland’s incredible food and farming culture. Many thanks to Hayes Design for our lovely Farmhouse Films logo and website.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Small Green Fields is dedicated to the memory of David Tiernan of Glebe Brethan Cheese & Mary Davis of Ballymore Farm

 

 

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grandad

{excerpted from Irish Country Living}

If you walked into our kitchen on Saturday afternoon you may have mistaken it for a confectionery. There were all the inner workings: steaming stainless steel pots of bubbling sugary concoctions on the stove, candied apples drying on waxed paper, tiny bottles of food colouring lining the countertop, finely chopped nuts of every sort in bowls ready to be dipped. It looked and smelled like some sort of candy heaven, which, of course, is always a good thing.

dipping

confectionery

Building this kitchen confectionery actually began days earlier when my father-in-law said he had spotted a crab apple tree bursting with fruit in a hedge while checking cattle one afternoon.

So, when a sunny window of opportunity welcomed us, Geoffrey and I met Grandad at the gate of the pasture; ladder and empty rucksack in hand.  We swiftly walked as a trio toward the tree, acknowledging that the weather could change and blow us and our dear apples hither and tither at any moment. Time was most certainly of the essence.

hen

The tree was situated on the edge of a shallow stream running through the paddock so Michael had no choice but to plant the ladder into the water and climb on up.  As he quickly plucked the abundance of fruit, Geoffrey and I stayed below to catch any falling apples. This turned out to be quite laughable because each time an apple dropped into the water, the current would hastily whisk it away before we could grasp it in our hands. We came away soaked, but with smiles and an overflowing sack of dainty apples.

fallingapples

closeupapples

I perused Pinterest in search of crab apple concoctions and came across several delicious looking images of tiny candied apples which are a popular treat in other parts of the world. Descriptions revealed that sweet candy coating plays perfectly with the tart apple taste creating a tantalising balance of flavours.

overheadapple

It was decided. As well as preserving a few jars, I would pick out the smallest fruits with the longest stems and try my hand at bringing this world-class candied treat to our Irish country kitchen.  And, let’s just say: there were no regrets.

Candied Wild Crab Apples

adapted from mattbites.com

Ingredients

10-15 small ripe crab apples
 with stems intact
675g/3 cups granulated sugar
180g/1/2 cup golden syrup (or light corn in USA) syrup
250ml/1 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon of red food colouring

Method

1. Clean and dry the apples and set aside.
2. Heat and stir sugar, golden syrup and water in a saucepan until sugar has
dissolved.
3. Boil until the syrup reaches 150c/310f degrees on a candy thermometer.
4. Remove from heat and stir in food coloring.
5. Allow to cool slightly and wait for bubbles to disappear
6. Dip one apple completely in the syrup and swirl it so that it becomes fully coated. Hold the apple above the saucepan to drain off excess.
7. Place apple onto a baking sheet that’s greased or lined with waxed paper or silpat.
8. Repeat the process with the remaining apples. If your syrup thickens or cools too
much, simply reheat briefly before proceeding.
9. Let the apples cool completely before serving.
10. Chomp away!

Recipe Notes:
Do not allow candy temp to go over 150c/310f degrees or it will burn.
Be very careful, this mixture is extremely hot. Not a project for the children.

The winner of Pat’s Irish Beef Book is: PAULA LYDON. Congratulations!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos + Styling by Imen McDonnell 2013. Excerpted from my Country Living column 7.11.13  

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sloegincollage

Tis true. I am writing a book! Umm. Rewind and playback: “Imen, you are writing a book.” Sorry, but I have to do that at least once a day for it to really sink in. At least that was formerly true until my lovely and amazing editor, Rochelle Bourgault, assigned my first deadline last week.

YIKES!

I guess we are all aware that I have been on one helluva(n?) epic journey, both culturally and gastronomically since moving to Ireland. However, I have only been able to reveal small snippets via this blog, insta-love, FB, and the twittaverse.

Now, I get to share, no-holds-barred, all the nitty-gritty, slurrifically soaked bits about life on this Irish farm and the pantry of pretty remarkable food that goes along with it. Perhaps my beginner’s step-by-step guide to milking your first cow? How-to pluck-n-process a chook? Dressing tripe 101? Or, new recipes like Farm Fresh Buttermilk Beignets, Lobsta Blaas and Peggy’s Potato Stuffing? There is so much to share, and I am thrilled and honoured to do so.

With the generous assistance of my patience-of-a-saint literary agent, Sharon Bowers, my book will be published in the USA and Ireland/UK by ROOST in autumn 2015, is provisionally titled FARMETTE: Adventures and Recipes From Life on an Irish Farm, and will be an illustrated cookbook/food memoir chock full of modern recipes, stories, and vibrant imagery from our kitchen and farm.

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Since leaving urban America for my Irish farm(er), I have tackled the task of building a foundation of kitchen skills and time-honoured cookery traditions, gaining wisdom from my dear mother-in-law, and other amazing connoisseurs of cooking both in Ireland and abroad.  Building that base, has been for me, an absolute essential requirement of my lifestyle change. I have become a home cook and baker in my own right, first by necessity, and now as one of my life’s greatest (and most creative) passions.

If I do it right, Farmette will become an absolute devilishly delicious + stunning diary of my expat journey into Irish country cooking, following my five-year culinary home/farm schooling—or as I like to think of it, a charming confusion of cake and cream and all things in between.  

Thank you, as always, for taking the time to visit here and hold my hand on this journey. I only began blogging to record the crazy happenings of my new life to share with friends and family overseas. Over time, this journal has healed homesickness and forged some fantastic new friendships. And now, it will create a book. (rewind and playback) I am astonished and so very grateful.

But hey, it’s not all about me! I don’t know about you, but I was taught that it is not courteous to applaud when others are celebrating your achievements. So, in keeping with that mantra, I would like to share a extraordinary new book authored by a very dear friend. The Irish Beef Book by 5th generation master butcher, Pat Whelan (with Katy McGuinness) is the consummate guide to Irish beef (and beef in general!) As the doyenne of Irish cookery, Darina Allen says, “This book is filled with recipes that use every scrap of meat from nose to tail, and provide a noble end for the animals Pat rears and butchers.” I am giving away one copy to one lucky reader. If you want to be in with the draw, please leave a reply below telling me your favourite cut of beef. Will announce/ship on my next post!

irishbeefbook

Now, a toast to new books, good friends, and plenty of plum pudding…..cheers!

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Wild Sloe Gin Rickey

Since moving to the farm, we have made a ritual of searching for sloes in our hedgerows each autumn. They are usually put to use in a gin or vodka infusion. But, I have also made sloe jelly, which is a lovely compliment to game dishes as well. The Gin Rickey is a classic American cocktail, and since citrus pairs so well with the sweet, tangy sloe, why not call it a Sloe Gin Rickey? Slurrrp. 

Makes One Serving.

1.5 oz Wild Sloe Gin (here is link to my somewhat science experimental-esque step-by-step recipe for lavender + sloe gin)

1 squeeze of  1/2 lime

carbonated water (or tonic), depending on strength/taste preferred

ice

Pour juice of lime and gin into a highball glass over ice cubes. Fill with carbonated water and stir. Add the wedge of lime and serve. You can also shake gin and lime juice and pour over cubes in a highball or lowball glass.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos & Styling by Imen McDonnell 2013. 

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oystercollageAka: three of my guiltiest pleasures.

Three things that I think about more than a farm any girl should. Three things that must really be done all in one day to fully appreciate. Add champagne to any and all and you’ve upped the totty. The best.

I have a few bits of bacchanalia I wanted to share this week in between recipe posts. They involve oysters, cake, and cinema.

I am doing a cookery demonstration at The Galway International Oyster Festival this year. What will I be preparing? Something oysterlicious, of course.  And, 50′s style Americana. Using amazing local Irish artisan ingredients and a drop of smokey Connemara Whiskey. The festival takes place today, 26th September through the Sunday the 29th with a schedule filled with remarkable oyster and seafood events. I’ll be there on Saturday afternoon at 3pm, after Birgitta of Burren Smokehouse and before Michelin star chef, Kevin Thornton. (don’t ask me how that happened!). On Sunday, the fabulous Clodagh McKenna will be cooking for everyone. Do come along!

Galway Native Oysters back in season for the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival, 26-29 Sept 2013 (Large)[1]

Our film, Small Green Fields, has been selected to screen at the Food Film Festival in Chicago in November! We are so thrilled to share the stories of incredible artisan Irish food and farming personalities with audiences across the pond. In the Windy city where so many people can say they are proud to be Irish, I’m hoping will be a big hit. Have a look at the other films screening, fun + impressive company.  Also, on October 17th, Small Green Fields will screen at the IndieCork Film Festival in Cork City. More details to come.

smallgreenfieldfinal

My friend and fellow Irish food blogger/author, Lilly Higgins along with Patrick Ryan of Firehouse Bread will be baking cakes for ACT for Meningitis at Bake Fest Galway this year.  The national festival takes place on Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th of October. Organised by Goodness Cakes, in association with charity ACT for Meningitis, Bake Fest Galway will be Ireland’s biggest baking festival and competition for both novices and professionals.

BAKE

Back soon with a new farm adventure + recipe to share.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

 

 

 

 

 

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currantpie

One of the very first meals I shared with Richard in Ireland occurred at the ridiculously charming Mustard Seed. I’ll never forget driving up the hill that evening to the stately restaurant and inn, which he explained, “was housed in a former 19th century convent.”  I had been prepared to enjoy a romantic dinner for two, but I suddenly began to worry: could my dashing and devout Irish farmer be shipping me off to a nunnery for a bit of parochial polishing up?

Deep breath.

We parked the car and found ourselves being graciously greeted at the grand entrance door by a handsome and attentive maître d’ whom swiftly handed us each a crisp and cordial glass of bubbles.

Exhale. 

After taking our coats we were shown into a wonderfully wabi sabi yet classically drawn sitting room oozing with warmth and tartan and books and pictures and bottles of scotch filled with smoke and history. We lingered on the davenport and sipped our bubbly glasses dry while giddily holding hands in front of a roaring fireplace.

mustardseedpurple

After just the right amount of time, we were summoned to a beautiful dining room all dressed in blue where we feasted on pan fried Kerry scallops, nasturtium jelly, wild mushrooms, freshly-caught roasted trout, a tender fillet of local beef and puddings galore which we washed down with chalices of wine and spirits and tea and coffee until the early hours of the morning.

Unforgettable.

mustardseedblue

That night, there was no way of knowing that years later I would move and marry and become simmered in the spectacular world of Irish food, embracing traditional skills and championing artisan producers as I have done.  Perhaps involuntarily that meal at the Mustard Seed planted this special seed. A nice notion to ponder.

Last month, I paid a visit to the Mustard Seed to collect a gift certificate just as they were expecting a large group of local guests. The ebullient proprietor, Dan Mullane, was in the front of the house preparing glasses of fresh black currant cordial with soda + sprigs of lemon verbena for the impending arrivals. When he handed me an amethyst-coloured glass of the refreshment I more than happily obliged.

The flavour was out of this world.

verbenadrink2

I am ashamed to admit that black currant offerings were a bit lost on me when I first came here. I tended to associate black currant with the flavour of bittersweet grapes, as the black currant juices that line supermarket shelves here resembled a certain deep purple grape juice that I never fancied in America.

Ignoramus.

That all changed once I had a taste of my mother-in-law’s homemade, fresh-picked black currant jam. To this day, both Peggy’s homegrown black currant and gooseberry jams are the conserves that I cherish most. They are also two jams that I never had in my life before moving to Ireland {and for the record, two more reasons to make a girl never leave Ireland.}

blackcurrantorhard

Peggy’s black currant jam changed my mind about black currants. And, Dan’s black currant lemon verbena cordial at the Mustard Seed took my love for this little berry one step further. {and yes, I am reading your mind, indeed this clever concoction pairs wonderfully with a finger of gin and a splash of tonic, I know this from obligatory experimentation}

I contemplated: if fresh black currants were so damn good in jams and drinks, wouldn’t they be great in a tart? Because the lemon verbena matched so beautifully in the cordial, I decided experiment with a vanilla bean + lemon verbena glaze over fresh picked black currants. The result was a splendidly tangy (but not tart) velvety vanilla, bursting berry flavour with a cornmeal crust that comfortably cradles its filling.

currantpie

See what you think!

Black Currant Lemon-Vanilla Verbena Glazed Tart with Cornmeal Crust
INGREDIENTS
CRUST
300g/2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
30g/1/4 cup corn (maize)meal (medium ground)
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
113g/1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
55g/1/4 cup nonhydrogenated solid vegetable shortening frozen, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons (or more) ice water

GLAZE
2 teacups (or handfuls) washed fresh lemon verbena leaves
1 vanilla pod
450g/2 cups sugar
120ml/1/2 cup water

FILLING
750g/5 cups fresh black currants (about 27 ounces)
175ml/3/4 cup lemon verbena glaze
120g/1/2 cup caster sugar
30g/1/4 cup cornstarch
Milk (for brushing)
1 1/2 tablespoon raw sugar

METHOD
FOR CRUST
1. Blend flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in processor.
2. Add butter and shortening; blitz on and off until mixture resembles coarse meal.
3. Add 4 tablespoons ice water and blend just until moist clumps begin to form
4. Gather dough into ball.
5. Divide dough in half; flatten each half into disk.
6. Wrap disks separately in plastic and chill at least 1 hour.

FOR GLAZE
Put all ingredients into saucepan and slowly heat just until sugar dissolves and creates a thick syrup. Remove from heat and let cool and steep for 2 hours (or longer if you can, the longer you steep the more pronounced the flavour) Strain leaves and pod. Reserve syrup for glaze.

FOR FILLING
1. Combine black currants, lemon verbena glaze, sugar, cornstarch in large bowl; toss to blend.
2. Let stand at room temperature until juices begin to form, about 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 200c/400ºF.
4. Place rimmed baking sheet in bottom of oven.
5. Roll out 1 dough disk between 2 sheets of generously floured parchment paper to 12-inch round.
6. Peel off top parchment sheet; invert dough into 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish.
7. Carefully peel off second parchment sheet.
8. Gently press dough into pie dish, pressing any cracks together as needed to seal and leaving dough overhang.
9. Spoon filling into piecrust.
10. Roll out second dough disk between 2 sheets of generously floured parchment paper to 12-inch round.
11. Peel off top parchment sheet. Carefully and evenly invert dough atop filling.
12. Peel off second parchment sheet.
13. Trim overhang of both crusts to 1 inch.
14. Fold overhang under and press to seal.
15. Crimp edges.
16. Cut five 2-inch-long slits in top crust of pie to allow steam to escape during baking.
17. Lightly brush top crust (not edges) with milk. Sprinkle with raw sugar.
18. Bake tart 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 175c/350ºF and continue baking until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling thickly through slits, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
19. Cool pie completely on rack.
20. Serve with scoops of ice cream, custard, or whipped cream.

The lucky recipient of Nessa Robin’s, Apron Strings, randomly picked out of an old milk pail by our little farmer, is ORLA O’BRIEN. Congratulations Orla! Please email your address to me at imenmcdonnell@gmail.com.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2013. Black currants for the tart were graciously gifted to us by the Mustard Seed, and also picked from our own orchard at the farm. 

 

 

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Apron Strings

07 Aug 2013

book3

She…

is a scratch-made girl who swears by using wholesome, honest ingredients. she is genuinely endearing….salt of the earth, if you will.  you want to eat and linger in her kitchen for days surrounded by sweet children soaking up every bit of tender love in the air. you want to watch butterflies and pick berries in her garden and then sit outside for tea and tart al fresco. she radiates a supreme goodness, yet has absolutely no pretense…….she’d make me a damn fine neighbour.

This is Nessa Robins.

bookcover

When I opened my copy of Nessa’s beautiful new cookery book, Apron Strings, I read it through from top to tail. This was not an entirely easy task given the fact that I was in wellies mucking out a shed in between chapters. The book embraced me, much like Nessa’s personal warmth. I went into the kitchen and immediately made a comforting crock of her potato soup for everyone. Not just any Irish potato soup; a savoury + spicy white onion, potato and chorizo number. It was pure velvet heaven on a drizzly, fresh day.

bookcollage

I am sorry if this seems a bit heavy handed, but the truth is, I can’t say enough about how special this cookery book is…..I mean, there is a chapter called Home Nurse. Emmmm, can I move in for a weekend, Nessa?

homenurse

For the record, this is not a review. We bought Nessa’s book; and will buy a few more before the holidays. However, her publisher has generously offered to give away a copy to a fortunate reader. If you are interested in being in the draw, please leave a comment below. Of course, will ship domestic or international. {If you are not chosen to win, you can buy Nessa’s book here or here}

Other quick bits of bacchanalia to share…

The very first Ballymaloe Garden Festival is on Aug 31-Sep 1st. We are hoping to attend; maybe will see you there?

Our short film, Small Green Fields, has applied for an Arthur Guinness Project grant to produce a feature length version…will the big dogs support a small dog? We will have to wait and see….you can vote here if you like.

Does anyone else use Eden knives? I recently bought two and they have changed my world in the kitchen. Would love to hear other experiences with this {new to me} brand.

Expedia recently asked me to review their new travel app. Since I don’t do formal reviews on this blog, I declined, but I will give it a mention it here as we frequently use Expedia for booking our travel to America and the app will surely come in handy.

Still going gaga over Toonsbridge Dairy water buffalo cheeses that I picked up at the Milk Market over the weekend, you can find it in the The Real Olive Oil Co. stall.

My friend, Niamh Shields, is writing a new BACON book and needs our support, here is a link to her Kickstarter campaign for Project: Bacon

Food 52′s Provisions has opened it’s virtual doors! I am coveting more than a few items in stock….

Oh, the Irish Blog Awards are coming up. They are accepting nominations from Irish diaspora this year too so if you are Irish and living abroad with a blog there is now a category for you.

Listening: Jake Bugg

Insta-loving: @dashandbella {Dash and Bella blog}

Hope you are all enjoying the summer.

Next post: An Irish Country House Tea…and a very special berry pie

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos of book by Imen McDonnell 2013. Nessa Robins did all of her own photography for the book.

 

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finalcrabboil

It’s summertime and the living is easy…

…at least that’s what Mimi of Manger says, so we’re  just going to go vicariously with it.

For the first time in a few years, we won’t be traveling stateside this summer. So, I’ve decided to bring a bit of Americana to the farm.

We’ve already gone all State Fair and made corn dogs; funnel cakes are on deck, and a few weeks ago we hosted a traditional American southern-style crab boil.

It is always surprising how little seafood you typically find on Irish menus. (with the exception of that glorious & ever so popular Irish seafood chowder, of course.) Crab and lobster are a fraction of the cost here, and I make sure that we take FULL advantage of this flavorful fact in our kitchen.

The crab and lobster that we source from our local fishmonger comes from nearby Kerry or Clare; two gorgeous Atlantic counties which border us. The Brown Kerry crab with its succulent claw meat and Clare’s luscious lobster tails both equate absolute divinity in my book.

Here is my basic recipe for a classic summer crab boil as was also recently {and very proudly} featured in the Sunday Times Magazine. A crab boil is more a method than a recipe; the fun of it is in the preparation and casual eating ritual which is what makes it especially delicious to me!

County Kerry Crab Boil

INGREDIENTS
New potatoes (2 or 3 per person depending on their size, cut in half-inch slices or whole if small enough)
Salt to taste
Crab boil seasoning (I recommend Zatarain’s or DIY a large sachet filled with mustard seeds, coriander seed, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, dill seed and allspice)
Live brown Kerry crabs (3 or 4 small crabs per person or 1-2 large)
Sweet corn (an ear per person, cut in halves)
Smoked spicy sausage (1-2 per person)
Plenty of melted butter for dipping
Newspapers or brown paper for covering your table
Little forks, claw crackers or hammers to get at the crab meat

METHOD
1. Put the potatoes in an oversized pot; they should cover the bottom.
2. Cover them with water by about two inches.
3. Add crab boil seasonings and a few generous pinches of sea salt.
4. Char or sear sausages to seal in flavour.
5. Place crabs, corn, and sausages in the pot and cover.
6. Put the pot over high heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil; reduce the heat
to medium high. Cook for another 12 to 18 minutes until the crabs are cooked
through.
7. Hold the lid of the pot ajar and dump the water, keeping the food in the pot.
8. Pour the pot onto the center of a table covered with paper.
9. Make sure plenty of melted butter is available and a couple bottles of chilled
pinot blanc, rosé wine, sangria or crisp cold cider.
10. FEAST!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photo and styling by Imen McDonnell 2013

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gate

“I’m bored”

It’s nearly 7am on our third day into summer break. I explain that it is impossible for you to be bored, you haven’t even brushed your teeth yet. Come back to me when your breath is a little sweeter.

We scamper downstairs to the kitchen and develop a new pancake recipe. We’re kind of on a pancake-a-day lark. I let him choose a flavour and he asks to try the chocolate version which he has been obsessing about for weeks. The same one I have been saying no to for weeks. While he goes outside to feed the dogs while I finely grate a carrot into the mix and pour batter onto the griddle and feel better about feeding my child chocolate pancakes for breakfast.

We sit at the table and eat. He gobbles two mahogany-coloured flapjacks while I carefully alternate spooning egg out of a cup with plunging crunchy toast soldiers into its gooey yolk. We slurp milk and coffee respectively. Yes, slurrrrp. It’s 7:44am.

In my best Fantastic Mr. Fox voice, I proudly proclaim “we shall go wild crafting today.” If I say we are going to clip elderflowers it won’t be as nearly exciting….the foraging adventure never wears off, but you gotta keep it fresh.

We pack up. I bring camera, bucket, shears. He brings a compass, my dad’s vintage binoculars, 3D glasses, and his dingy soccer ball.

I open the gate to one of our quiet grazing meadows which is enclosed by wild hedges teeming with flora. We see a row of hay bales all stacked up in a long row like one of those big tootsie rolls with segments. Bale jumping glee.

balejumping
We find wild honeysuckle, comfrey, meadowsweet, and, of course elderflowers. Geoffrey looks for four leaf clovers while I get drunk on the beguiling fragrance of wild roses.

cloversandroses

We near the elderflower hedge and hear cows lowing on the other side. They get louder. Through the thick hedge I swear I make out a black bull. Louder. A low warning moo. Louder again. We snip the musky vanilla coloured delicate flower heads that dangle like earrings from the elder branches and rush away…stopping only for a bouquet of honeysuckle blossoms.

Bale hopping.

Ball kicking.

Flower smelling.

Clover picking.

Elderflower clipping.

Honeysuckle sniffing.

Wild Crafting.

pickedflowerssimple

We arrive home and simultaneously prepare a batch of elderflower + wild honeysuckle cordial, supper, and a homemade greeting card for a loved one. I have to go on record as saying that there are very few edible flower flavours that I tolerate. As much as I could bathe in rose or orange blossom water, for me, the taste harkens of eating chapstick.

honeysuckle

Elderflower and honeysuckle are different. Elderflower has a very distinct, almost muscat scent and the flavour is genuinely just on the right side of sweet. Honeysuckle has a fresh sugary tang that lingers in such a satisfying way. I had never sampled these amazing treats until I moved to Ireland and they have simply become a summer staple.

elderflowertreejellyduo

We wait 48 hours then prepare the jelly using a bit of our priceless cordial and save the rest. In Ireland, gelatin is “jelly.” If you are like me, you will order “jelly and ice cream” from copious amounts of kiddies menus when dining out. It goes together like oil and water, but that separation is addicting. Well, it is in our house anyway.

jelliesgalore3

Elderflower + Honeysuckle Jelly
Feeds 4 hungry farmers

250ml of elderflower cordial ( I use this recipe using 1/2 elderflowers and 1/2 honeysuckle heads)
750ml of water
150g of caster sugar
6 gelatine leaves

1. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until soft. Remove from the water, squeezing out the excess water from the leaves
2. Place the caster sugar, half of the cordial and half of the water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and add the gelatine leaves. Stir well to dissolve the gelatine
3. Add the remaining water and cordial, stir well and pour the mixture one large or two medium jelly molds.
4. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate overnight until set.
5. Unmold and eat with scoops of ice cream.

meadowsweeticeduo

Meadowsweet Ice Cream
Makes 1.5 pint

500ml double cream
250ml whole milk
135g sugar
Generous handful of wild meadowsweet flowers*

1. Combine cream, milk, and sugar in a saucepan and heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.
2. Pour cream into a bowl and steep meadowsweet until cooled.
3. Pour cream and meadowsweet through a sieve into a clean bowl.
4. Chill in the refrigerator overnight.
5. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
6. Store in an airtight container and freeze for an additional 2 hours.

*Make sure you have positively identified meadowsweet or any wild edibles. Also, From Wikipedia: About one in five people with asthma has Samter’s triad,[3] in which aspirin induces asthma symptoms. Therefore, asthmatics should be aware of the possibility that meadowsweet, with its similar biochemistry, will also induce symptoms of asthma.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2013.

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